I’m delighted to have been tagged in a ‘meme’, which is an online chain letter. Each week a new writer posts answers to questions about a work-in-progress. Novelist, Penny Rudge, and playwright and non-fiction writer, Samantha Ellis, have both handed on the baton to me. As well as being fantastically talented, Penny and Samantha are very generous to their fellow writers so I feel especially privileged to be continuing their chains.
What is the title of your next book?
The Waifs and Strays of Sea View Lodge
What genre does your book fall under?
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The Waifs and Strays of Sea View Lodge is about the Morecambe-born Maloney twins: Maeve, who is the cleverest girl in her class, and Edie, who has profound learning disabilities.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My sisters are twins and one of them has profound and complex learning disabilities. She has such a knack for happiness that, although her access to language is limited, she manages to teach those around her so much. I’ve always known that I wanted to write about this, but I instinctively sensed I would need to practise my craft on other projects for several years before I’d feel ready to embark on this novel, which is so important to me.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is all a bit premature, but Patricia Routledge would be great as the elderly Maeve. Like me, Patricia Routledge is originally from the North West, and I think she’d get my character’s background to a tee. Her performance of A Lady of Letters in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads combines the kind of comic bitterness and deep sadness that I’m aiming for in Maeve.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I tend to write the first draft quite slowly, repeatedly starting again as I hone the voice and get to know the characters and the heart of the story. This process took about two years, with the bulk of the writing happening during month-long intensive and blissful residencies at Circle of Misse in the Loire – a retreat that is luxuriously conducive to creative work.
What other books have influenced you?
Early readers have delighted me by saying that The Waifs and Strays of Sea View Lodge shares its DNA with Notes on a Scandal, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Remains of the Day. You could also throw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel into the mix.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Although I’ve always known that I would write about twin sisters and learning disabilities, I only found my story when I watched the unfortunately titled Channel 4 programme The Strangest Hotel in Britain – a fly on the wall documentary about Foxes Hotel, which is staffed by students with learning disabilities. I felt that a novel could explore the lives of people with learning disabilities (and the ways in which they’ve changed over the past century) from more unexpected angles.
Now it’s my turn to tag. Next up is my dear friend, the talented writer Emily Midorikawa. We’ve already cropped up on each other’s sites a few times, as we co-wrote a piece for The Times and we’ve spoken together on panels. Following the feature on our collaboration in their 2013 diary, Mslexia will run our new piece on female writing friendships and rivalries in their next issue…